Two Poems on Florida


Naked, floating face down in the tv room

filled with seawater seeping from glass doors

he had duct-taped against the hurricane,

the room a dark aquarium, his white body, bobbing

–he must have been asleep on the couch, exhausted

after a day of battening down the house

when baysurge beached in a swarm of seaspouts

churning up the mangrove swamp, the great wave colliding,

breaching doors, collapsing walls, wallowing, then

tumbling back out as winds shrieked off treetops,

sea slosh sucking up drowned frogs, broken snakes,

skinned pelicans, dragging leaf muck, sparkles of

shattered glass, lawn chairs, rolling a dead manatee,

slopping back through tangles of trees, impaled boats,

to the seesaw bay sizzling with rain, leaving him

rocking in a kelp of curtains, arms outstretched

towards something in the green cloudy water.


A Miami Moment

Just home from work, he’s sitting

by the patio pond, watching the koi

write their slow signatures.


Beside him: The Miami Herald

gathering humid air, a glass of wine,

and the cigar he left last night.


A flock of parrots mutters

in the seagrape tree. The ylang-ylang

has put on its evening perfume


and soon the yard will smell like Chanel.

Inside his daughter is baking cookies

and his wife is taking a pre-dinner snooze.


He jumps up screaming.

Inside, they yell “What? What!?”

and run out to see him pointing up


at maybe fifty vultures circling,

wings underlit by the setting sun

in a swirl of slow turning light.


The magic in the realism

never far away.


John Balaban

John Balaban is the author of twelve books of poetry and prose, which have won The Academy of American Poets' Lamont Prize and a National Poetry Series Selection. His poetry has received two nominations for the National Book Award.  His Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems won the 1998 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.  Among his publications are poems in The AtlanticThe New York Review of Books, The Hudson Review, Granta, and Little Star.